It’s hard to mention Laguna Beach without people thinking of the reality show starring teenaged girls and their plastic surgery disasters, teenaged boys in love with themselves, and both with broken families at home behind secure high gates. Television brought the name of the town into the consciousness of the country with that terrible teenage soap opera that combined generous servings of affluence and stupidity and captured the hearts of the Americas youth. To be fair, spending money on leisure near the water has always been a tradition of the wealthy but Laguna Beach is different. There is something special about this place and it’s hard for me to put my finger on exactly what it is. The town has very distinct energy.
Laguna is surrounded on all sides by the worst of that Orange County has to offer and though it’s considered one of the wealthiest cities in America, it seems to be more of a playground for artistic and independent minded people. This dates back over 100 years. It’s easy to see from my pictures that Laguna is home to beautiful and iconic California shores and its seaside village vibe remains unspoiled in subtle ways. Considering the wealth of the population its downtown area could have easily been ruined with High-end boutiques but its retained its village atmosphere with an eclectic mix of independent retailers and galleries. The city has a rich artistic history dating back to 1910 when painters from art schools all over the country came to this sleepy beach outpost to paint its unspoiled vistas in the impressionist style made famous by Monet. Today, one could spend all day visiting galleries and not get to see all of them. Once a year the city puts on an art festival, which celebrated its 80th year in production this past July, known as the Pageant of the Masters.
In the 1930s, Laguna Beach became a destination for Hollywood stars and many, including Charlie Chaplin, had homes there where they could escape the summer heat of Los Angeles and not be bothered. Misfits have also called this place home and in the late 1960’s, Timothy Leary and his Brotherhood of Eternal Love worked in the canyons perfecting their Orange Sunshine, which was the first mass-produced form of LSD. It was then sold up and down the west coast and contributed immensely to the counter culture movement for which California became famous. In those days it was a Haight Ashbury south and kids flocked there from all parts of California to join the brotherhood and participate in their social experiment to build a new society. The town’s independent attitude is also reflected in Laguna’s significant gay population dating back to the 1930’s. As the conservative wave of the Reagan years swept the country in the 1980s the city marched to the beat of its own drummer and elected an openly gay mayor along with a few city council members.
Above all else though this place is special for the good times I have had visiting and all wonderful memories i have built over the last 25 years. I have a few friends there today but for the most part I’m a stranger in this town, yet it always feels like home when I’m there and I hope one day to actually live there. I hope you enjoy the pictures.